Betelgeuse is a semiregular variable star located approximately 640 light-years from the Earth. With an apparent magnitude ranging between 0.3 and 1.2, it is the ninth brightest star in the night sky. Although Betelgeuse has the Bayer designation Alpha Orionis (α Orionis / α Ori), it is most often the second brightest star in the constellation Orion behind α; Rigel (Beta Orionis) is usually brighter (Betelgeuse is a variable star and is on occasion brighter than Rigel). The star marks the upper right vertex of the Winter Triangle and center of the Winter Hexagon.
Betelgeuse is a red supergiant, and one of the largest and most luminous stars known. For comparison, if the star were at the center of our solar system its surface might extend out to between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, wholly engulfing Mercury, Venus, the Earth and Mars. The angular diameter of Betelgeuse was first measured in 1920–1921 by Albert Abraham Michelson and Francis G. Pease using the 100 inch (2.5 m) John D. Hooker astronomical interferometer telescope atop Mount Wilson Observatory.
Astronomers believe Betelgeuse is only a few million years old, but has evolved rapidly because of its high mass. Due to its age, Betelgeuse may go supernova within the next millennium (because it is hundreds of light years away, it possibly may have done so already).